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Many in Africa Relieved by Gaddafi's Demise

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Some Reports Keep Focus on Plight of Black Libyans

"Protests in Libya picked up steam in February. The victory shows that 'Africans will stop at nothing in bringing change in the political landscape,' said Brian Mwale, head of business news at Zambia’s Muvi Television. (Credit: Al Jazeera)

Some Reports Keep Focus on Plight of Black Libyans

Many African journalists reacted with relief Thursday at the killing of deposed Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, according to early reports. Some were focusing on the plight of black and dark-skinned Libyans who had been harassed and tortured by the victorious rebels because they had been or were assumed to be Gaddafi supporters.

Reporters Without Borders, the international press freedom group, called it a good day, but a cautious one, for journalists.

"Col. Gaddafi was one of the leading holders of the 'Predator of Press Freedom' title that Reporters Without Borders began bestowing after its creation in 1985," it said.

"We pay tribute to the victims of his oppressive regime, to the journalists he imprisoned and to the five journalists killed in Libya since March 2011. The death of a dictator should not mean that investigations are abandoned and that impunity is perpetuated. We hope that this turning point in Libya’s political history will also mark the beginning of renewal in its media."

In Kenya, the Nation newspaper was among those relating Gaddafi's demise to the status of other autocratic "big men" on the continent.

"The killing of ousted Libyan Muammar Gaddafi should mark the end of the last pockets of resistance to the people’s revolt that toppled the 42-year old regime," it editorialized.

"Now the National Transitional Council must consolidate its position, restore law and order, and the semblance of an effective administration across the entire country that has suffered the ravages of the bloody revolt for much of this year.

"But the new leadership must realise that wiping out the Gaddafi regime must not merely be about replacing one dictatorship with another.

"The Libyan people revolted because they were tired of a megalomaniac one-man rule. They have aspirations to rule of law, democracy and respect for human rights, as do other peoples across the region, who have voted on the streets against autocracy and totalitarianism."

Some Western "progressives" viewed U.S. and European support for the rebels as evidence of neo-colonialism. Sylvester Awenlimobor, writing Tuesday for Nigeria's Sun News online, echoed this thinking. "I regard as unfortunate all that has occurred in the North African state of Libya, and I declare illegal the present occupation of the once-free nation by rebel war lords backed by insidious neo-colonialist western forces," he wrote. ". . . I do not in any way support the tyrannical manner with which [Moammar] Gaddafi ruled his people; neither will I support the hideous attempt by the imperialist West to impinge on the Sovereignty of a State."

But Awenlimobor's view was in the minority in an Africa News continent-wide roundup of opinion by journalists and users of social media.

" 'Brian Mwale, Head of Business News at Zambia’s Muvi Television said from Brussels, 'I think it has sent signals to leaders like [Robert] Mugabe [Zimbabwe] who want to cling on to power for life. It has shown that Africans will stop at nothing in bringing change in the political landscape, Zambians just showed that in the recent presidential elections [where] people started demonstrating and were ready to pay with their blood had results come out otherwise," the roundup reported.

" 'You may also add that 20 African and East Europe journalists gathered in Brussels for . . . training . . . are happy with Gaddafi’s death because the violence has claimed a lot of lives in that country and affected economic growth,' said Mwale."

Other reports took note of the plight of black Libyans.

The African Press Organization transmitted this Thursday from the International Office of Migration in Switzerland:

"More than 1,220 Sub-Saharan Africans evacuated from the southern Libyan city of Sebhas just over two weeks ago have now safely arrived in Chad after a long and arduous journey south.

". . . Anger at the treatment of Africans in Libya was still evident among the migrants.

". . . 'In Libya, they took everybody with black skin and considered them as mercenaries and put thousands in prison,' yet another Chadian evacuee stated."

Agence France-Presse wrote Sunday about blacks who fought in Gaddafi's army: "More than 400 armed Tuaregs have arrived in Mali . . . prompting regional security concerns, officials said on Sunday."

Reuters noted that displaced black residents of Tawargha, Libya, will present a problem should they come back.

Referring to the National Transition Council, the report said, "While the NTC favors the return of Tawargha's residents, it admits this will take time. But resolving the issue remains a test of its leadership to come. Much of the city lays in ruins and people in neighboring Misrata say tensions are still too high to allow a return that could spark more violence.

" 'In the end it's another ghost of Gaddafi — he paid many of the tribes to fight for him, so now people see black people and immediately assume they support him, even if they don't," said Imad Eddin, an anesthesiologist volunteering at the camp."

Chicago Defender Editor Pink-Slipped

October 19, 2011

Rocky Road for Paper Since Its Rescue in 2003

Story on Execution of Boy, 14, Drives Hits to the Grio 

Media Keep Asking, "Herman, Are You for Real?"

ASNE Partners With Mizzou to Conduct Diversity Survey

Natalie Morales to Contribute to New NBC Newsmagazine

Swedish Journalists Tried as Terror Suspects in Ethiopia

Short Takes

Lou Ransom, executive editor of the Chicago Defender since 2007, said Wednesday he had been terminated. (Credit: Chicago Weekly)

Rocky Road for Paper Since Its Rescue in 2003

The president of the historic Chicago Defender fired Executive Editor Lou Ransom on Wednesday amid rumors that Ransom's termination was just the tip of the iceberg.

Michael House, the president, told Journal-isms by telephone late Wednesday that "I have not put out personnel changes," saying that meant there had been "no personnel changes."

However, Ransom told Journal-isms by email about half an hour later, "He presented me with a letter of termination today, at 2 p.m. CST." Ransom did not elaborate.

Real Times Inc., bought the Chicago Defender, the Michigan Chronicle, the New Pittsburgh Courier, the Memphis Tri-State Defender and the Michigan Front Page in 2003 and has struggled to make the Defender financially successful.

In 2005, the Defender, then one of just two black-oriented dailies in the nation, reduced its frequency from five issues a week to four.

Roland S. Martin, a television, radio and print commentator, edited the newspaper from 2004 to 2007, and was credited with breathing new life into the publication. The Defender announced partnerships with television stations and created special sections. "People now respect the Defender. They don't call it the Chicago Offender" any longer, Martin said then. But Martin cited "available resources to implement the vision that I have had since I arrived," in announcing his departure in December 2006.

In January 2005, veteran journalist Pearl Stewart resigned as managing editor, saying, "I was ready for challenges, but not that many."

Ransom, managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier and a veteran journalist who had worked in both the black and mainstream press, arrived in 2007.

He told Journal-isms then, "There are 1.2 million black people in Greater Chicago. There are that many stories. I want us to reconnect with the people of Chicago and be their black paper."

Asked how he could cover the area with only one full-time reporter, he said, "We'll get more money. I think some of the resources that were there were not used very well. Some people were in the wrong positions. They were not asked to do their best stuff."

In 2009, the paper moved its office from the Loop to Bronzeville, closer to its readers. But the Chicago Weekly wrote then, "the Chicago Defender seems to have become detached from its original audience, causing its readers to forget that the newspaper is still publishing at all. In fact, Ransom shared that recently a prominent political figure (whose name he declined to share) could not reach the Chicago Defender’s offices directly by phone, and instead needed the assistance of 411 to call."

Robert S. Abbott published the Defender's first issue on May 5, 1905. The paper is credited with triggering the Great Migration of blacks from the rural South to the industrial North after World War II. But the 1997 death of longtime publisher John H. Sengstacke "ushered in a period of family squabbling, estate-tax indebtedness, and caretaker ownership that repeatedly frustrated would-be buyers," Mark Fitzgerald wrote in 2003 in Editor & Publisher.

That year, a group of African American businessmen, under the banner of Real Times, bought the Chicago Defender and  what are now its sister papers.

Rhonda Jones-Gillespie, the Defender's news editor, could not be reached for comment. It could not be determined whether she and others had been pink-slipped along with Ransom.

George Junius Stinney Jr. (Credit: http://prisonphotography.wordpress.com)

Story on Execution of Boy, 14, Drives Hits to the Grio

NBC News' theGrio.com topped the Washington Post Co.'s theRoot.com in unique visitors in September, according to the comScore, Inc. research company, a comScore spokeswoman said on Wednesday. TheGrio credited its reporting on the case of a 14-year-old executed in 1944.

Although neither theRoot nor the Grio ranks at the top of news sites targeting African Americans, the two have maintained a rivalry in aspiring to reach readers seeking news and opinion more serious than the omnipresent celebrity news and gossip. (Full disclosure: Journal-isms appears on theRoot.com).

"For September, theGrio has now shot ahead of The Root — thanks in part to some incredible original reporting over the past few weeks," NBC News spokeswoman Meghan Pianta told Journal-isms by email. "An example of this was how theGrio led NBC News’ network coverage of the George Stinney case — a story that started on theGrio and led to a report on Nightly News (Nightly mentions the story originally came from theGrio, see here)."

On Sept. 27, theGrio reported that, "On June 16th, 1944, the United States executed a 14 year old boy. His name was George Junius Stinney Jr.

"There is good reason to believe Stinney’s confession was coerced, and that his execution was just another injustice blacks suffered in Southern courtrooms in the first half of the 1900s." The site then ran follow-up stories.

Here are the September figures for selected websites targeting African Americans:

MediaTakeOut.com, 3,233,000, up 51 percent from September 2010; BET Networks, 2,401,000, up 41 percent; Bossip.com, 1,660,000, down 6 percent; theGrio.com, 1,528,000, up 182 percent; HelloBeautiful.com, 939,000, up 77 percent; theRoot.com, 906,000, up 75 percent; Essence, 817,000, down 13 percent; BlackPlanet.com, 795,000, down 53 percent; NewsOne, 753,000, up 50 percent; MadamNoire.com, 545,000, up 279 percent; EURWeb.com, 385,000, up 66 percent; ConcreteLoop.com, 365,000, down 29 percent; BlackVoices, 298,000, down 88 percent.

Mario Ruiz, spokesman for Huffington Post, which owns HuffPost BlackVoices, said his comScore figures were different. "Of course, BlackVoices is now HuffPost BlackVoices. HuffPost BlackVoices is reaching 3MM UVs per comScore (September 2011) — an increase of 17% Y/Y." In layman's language, that's 3 million unique visitors, an increase of 17 percent year to year. [On Thursday, comScore spokeswoman Stephanie  Flosi confirmed the Huffington Post figures.]

Pianta said the surge in numbers for theGrio.com is not as dramatic as it appears: "The jump is due to the fact that there was a glitch in tags in July and August, so ComScore did not report our full traffic in July and August until the issue was fully resolved by September," she said by email.

Herman Cain, left, found his "9-9-9" plan attacked at Tuesday's GOP debate by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, center, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, among others on the seven-candidate stage. (Credit: CNN)

Media Keep Asking, "Herman, Are You for Real?"

"Herman Cain, are you running for president? Or are you just busing around the country, dropping into debates and Sunday talk shows to say you are, for vanity? Or so you can sell books (that you buy yourself) and land a show on Fox News?" Erika Fry wrote Tuesday for Columbia Journalism Review.

"This is a stupid, silly and pointless question. The man is running. But that hasn’t stopped the media — forced to confront the 'pizza magnate’s' (has this been fact-checked? did Godfather’s really make a magnate?) unexpected frontrunner status — from speculating about his motivations: Herman, are you for real?

"Or from writing story after story on the candidate, based on such speculation and laced with skepticism: he’s your frontrunner but …

"He’s spent only 33 days in Iowa this year (less only than Santorum, Bachmann, and Gingrich).

"The media frames this as a problem. . . ."

At Tuesday night's debate, Republican presidential contenders attacked Cain's economic plan as a tax increase waiting to happen, "moving swiftly in a fiery campaign debate to blunt the former businessman's unlikely rise in the race for the party's nomination," Kasie Hunt wrote for the Associated Press.

According to Lindsay Rubino of Broadcasting & Cable, "CNN's Las Vegas Republican debate, moderated by Anderson Cooper, delivered 5.5 million total viewers and 1.7 million in its key 25-54 demo on Tuesday night.

"The debate, which began at 8 p.m., ranked second only to Fox News Channel's Sept. 22 debate, which averaged 6.1 million total viewers."

ASNE Partners With Mizzou to Conduct Diversity Survey

"The next survey measuring diversity within U.S. newsrooms, a major initiative of the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) for 33 years, will be conducted by the Center for Advanced Social Research (CASR), an affiliate of the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism," ASNE announced on Tuesday.

"The Newsroom Employment Census is a tool ASNE uses to measure the success of its goal of having the percentage of minorities working in newsrooms nationwide equal to the percentage of minorities in the nation’s population by 2025. Since the inception of the census in 1978, ASNE has conducted the survey in-house; next year, that responsibility will shift to CASR, with ASNE overseeing the project and reporting the results."

ASNE announced in August it was eliminating four full-time positions: information technology manager, marketing manager, accounting manager and an administrative assistant. The organization no longer has a full-time diversity director.

Bobbi Bowman, who directed ASNE's diversity programs for 10 years, and supervised the survey, stepped down in 2009.

Natalie Morales to Contribute to New NBC Newsmagazine

Natalie Morales"NBC News today announced that Natalie Morales, the news anchor of 'TODAY' and co-host of the third hour, has signed on as a correspondent on 'Rock Center with Brian Williams.' Morales joins anchor and managing editor, Brian Williams and his all-star cast of correspondents Harry Smith, Kate Snow, Ted Koppel, Meredith Vieira, Richard Engel, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, Matt Lauer and Ann Curry," the network said.

"The announcement was made today by Steve Capus, President of NBC News.

". . . In addition to her new role as a correspondent on 'Rock Center with Brian Williams,' Morales will continue as the news anchor of 'TODAY' and co-host of the third hour, a position she’s held since March 2006. Prior to 'TODAY,' Morales was a national correspondent for 'NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams' and 'Dateline;' she was also an anchor at MSNBC from 2002-2006 where she covered major world events including the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq."

No black journalists have been announced as part of the program.

Swedish Journalists Tried as Terror Suspects in Ethiopia

"Two Swedish journalists who have been imprisoned in Ethiopia for almost four months will face terrorism charges in Addis Ababa tomorrow," Lauren Kirchner wrote Wednesday for the Columbia Journalism Review. "Freelance photojournalist Johan Persson and reporter Martin Schibbye were arrested on July 1 when they crossed the border from Somalia into Ethiopia’s Ogaden region to report on human rights violations, as Reporters Without Borders reported at the time.

"The Swedish press later revealed that Persson and Schibbye were specifically reporting on potential human rights violations committed by Lundin Petroleum, a Swedish-owned energy company with natural-gas operations in Ogaden.

"Last month, the Ethiopian government charged the pair with terrorist activity, abetting known terrorists, and illegally entering the country. The terrorism charges stem from the fact that Persson and Schibbye crossed the Somalia-Ethiopia border with the help of Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebels, a guerilla group Ethiopian law categorizes as terrorists."

Tom Rhodes, East Africa consultant for the Committee to Protect Journalists, based in Nairobi, Kenya, wrote Monday, "If you pass by Kronoberg Prison in Sweden's capital, Stockholm, you will see journalists chained to its gates. They have committed no crime. For over a week, journalists have taken turns locking themselves up in front of the prison to raise awareness of the imprisonment of three colleagues held in the Horn of Africa."

Short Takes

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Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site BugMeNot.com provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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